The response of US industry, trade and professional associations to past incidents has been inadequate to prevent similar incidents, according to a report into the Caribbean Petroleum (CAPECO) explosion in 2009.
In its draft interim report, the US Chemical Safety Board found that the current regulatory structure does not consider bulk aboveground storage tank terminals storing flammable liquid to be highly hazardous.
The report stated that due to a lack of regulatory coverage under the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration’s Process Safety Management standard and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Plan – tank terminal facility are not required to conduct risk assessments to address flammable hazards on sites or to follow Recognised and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices.
The CSB identified other regulation gaps including the fact that there is no redundant or independent safeguards to prevent overfilling a tank.
Further, the report found that despite past incidents both in the US and internationally, in which Buncefield, Texaco Oil Company and Indian Oil Company were mentioned, the response of US industry, trade associations, professional associations and standard-setting organisations has been inadequate to prevent similar incidents in the US.
The incident on October 23, 2009 occurred when gasoline spurted from an overfilled storage tank at the terminal near San Juan, Puerto Rico. A 107-acre vapour cloud formed and ignited, causing an explosion that damaged 300 homes and businesses. The fire continued for almost two days, destroying 17 of the 48 storage tanks.
The investigation found that the measuring devices used to determine the liquid levels in the tanks were poorly maintained and frequently not working and that the electronic transmitter card on the tank that overfilled was out of service, meaning that operators had to manually record the hourly tank level readings.
CSB board member Mark Griffon says: ‘The CSB’s investigation states that there a number of shortcomings in regulations that cover petroleum storage facilities. Facilities such as CAPECO, which store large quantities of gasoline and other flammables, are not required to conduct a risk assessment of potential dangers to the nearby community from their operations.’
- The full list of findings and recommendations will be covered in the July/August edition of the magazine.